One of the greatest forms of marketing, my personal favorite, in fact, is content marketing. The term “content marketing” gets thrown around carelessly on the Internet way too much and with little meaning attached, but the basic idea is simple. Content marketing means you market your brand or your product by sharing information with potential customers. The Wikipedia definition I’ve included below is even more insightful.
When businesses pursue content marketing, the main focus should be the needs of the prospect or customer. Once a business has identified the customer’s need, information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, email newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs, etc. Most of these formats belong to the digital channel.
To get your creative juices flowing, I’m going to cover 12 common types of content marketing in board gaming. I’ll talk about what they are, how and why they work, and the pros and cons of each:
- News Sites/News Feeds
- Review Sites
- Videos, Prerecorded
- How-To Guides/Books
- Social Media – Photos
- Social Media – Tips
- Social Media – Groups/Communities
News Sites/News Feeds
Starting up a board game news site or news feed is one way to promote your own content. News sites and news feeds help people stay on top of news in the board game industry. For example, you could compile a list of all the upcoming Kickstarters and help people know which ones they might be interested in backing. An example of a news sites in the board game industry would be the Dice Tower.
Starting a news site is good for gaining attention for some unique reasons that other forms of content marketing don’t benefit from. News sites naturally use trending words and phrases, such as upcoming board game releases, which helps bring in people organically through search engines and social media. Furthermore, starting a news site can bring in a lot of people if you’re a good writer, especially if you have a unique angle.
There are some drawbacks to starting a news site, though. For one, it’s tough to break into because people don’t need an infinite number of sources of news. Unless you find a good niche, you can easily be replaced by a better, faster, more comprehensive website that’s working with a bigger budget. Worse still, the news itself doesn’t have a lot of “heart” to it, so people get disengaged easily. Becoming intensely interested in a game developer, blogger, or YouTuber is common. Becoming intensely interested in a news site? It’s not the same.
Build a big enough website, though, and you can mention your game in an article or banner ad and watch the money roll in.
Reviewers such as ManVsMeeple and Rahdo are staples in the board game industry. With so many games coming out, providing an opinion to consumers is an easy way to create value in their lives and establish trust. Plus you get to share your opinion and people listen to it and make purchasing decisions based on it – that’s all pretty cool!
A lot of people become attracted to the possibility of reviewing games to garner attention. There are, in fact, a lot of benefits. For one, you get a lot of free games. If you have a solid angle, you can build a very big audience. Similar to news sites, you work your way up organically because you use trending words a lot, especially if you work with a lot of brand new games.
Reviewing doesn’t come with a lot of downsides, but there is one that’s very big that I think you should know about. If you want to promote your own board games and you do so through reviewing games, it can create a weird conflict of interest. Sure, it is possible to objectively review others’ work and still push your own, but a lot of people won’t be convinced of that fact. You need to be aware of that.
To use review sites to sell, it works just like a news site. Mention your game in an article or banner ad, and you can bring in cash passively if you have a big enough audience.
Whether live or prerecorded, people on the Internet love video as a form of media. This can mean YouTube, Snapchat or Instagram stories, or video done through your own website. People love video when it’s done really well. It can break through social media incredibly fast and effectively. It leaves a long-lasting impression on others, too.
The trouble with video is that it’s time-consuming to make and edit. It is more difficult to make good prerecorded video than any other medium I know of. That’s why a lot of creators opt to do live video instead of prerecorded video – just because it’s more time-effective.
To actually sell games through prerecorded video, build an audience and wait for the right time to ask. Ask at the right time, and this can be an incredibly effective form of marketing.
Live-streaming can be done through services such as Twitch, YouTube, and Mixer. The basic idea is that you can do live video – of yourself on camera, or yourself playing a game – and people can watch it and chat with you in real time.
People love streams even more than video when they’re done well. They leave lasting impressions, people find them highly engaging, you can leave a lasting impression, and build relationships quickly. They can also bring in serious money very fast.
Live-streams come with lots and lots of downfalls, though. They require a lot of time to set up and perform. They’re technically difficult to arrange and they require good hardware. Streams don’t break through social media quite as well as polished and complete video, and frankly, this is because streamers tend to be spammier than your average person on social media.
Live-streams make it easy to sell, which is why I believe they’re such good money-making tools. During the stream, if you’re streaming your game live, you have carte blanche to link your sales page or Kickstarter campaign. You can tell people where to go to buy and there is a good chance people will do it right then and there.
Podcasts, such as Shut Up and Sit Down, more or less act like a modern form of radio. People tend to listen to them on their commute, while working, or at home. Radio has always been an intimate form of communication, or at least as intimate as mass media gets. People get to know you when they hear your voice. It resonates with people for some reason. Podcasts also open the door for you to collaborate with other creators and media personalities.
Podcasts come with unique challenges, though. The critical caveat is that they don’t get indexed in search engines very easily. Audio is hard for people to search for online. That means it requires lots of promotion to get anywhere with podcasting, and that can be a gigantic pain.
Like many other forms of media, once you build up an audience, you can talk about your product or company. That is often enough to get people to take action.
Blogs are a way of creating and sharing articles. This is a blog. As far as internet media goes, blogs were among the first to catch on, and it’s no wonder why. They’re highly shareable, they have great visibility in search engines, and they are a classic format for sharing information.
Blogs come with one major fallback, though. Too many people have them, and breaking through the noise of the “blogosphere” takes a lot of time. They share better on social media than podcasts do, but the truth is that it still takes a ton of grinding for a blog to go anywhere. Once you get that hard-won audience, though, you can use blog to push people to landing pages related to your products or company. You can use it to ask for emails or to talk about your products. There is a lot of potential.
How-To Guides / Books
How-To guides and books (online or offline) are a great way of building authority. Nothing says “authority” quite like a 20 page guide, a big PDF, or a printed book. They’re extremely useful for people and they are a good way for people to remember who you are.
Unfortunately, these are really hard to write. They take a long time and a lot of research. They’re not very likely to grab people in large numbers, but the people they do bring in are much more likely to be committed.
To sell your game or company with online materials, you can link them to your website. If you use printed materials, be sure to include a URL that you are 100% certain you can keep up for a long time.
Interviews are not a standalone form of content creation, but rather one you can apply to other forms of content marketing such as podcasts, blogs, or videos. I’ve been known to do interviews such as this insightful one with an artist and an artist manager. Interviews are great for collaborating, they establish credibility fast, and it allows you to “borrow exposure” from other people’s established outlets.
Interviews can be tough, though. It’s time-consuming to work with others and you might have to do a lot more editing when you’re dealing with others’ work. Then there is also the problem that you will likely have to work with small fries first, unless you know somebody or are already a big deal.
Interviews often aren’t used to directly sell products, but they can increase your reach to sell your products through other means.
When I refer to newsletters, I’m talking specifically about email newsletters. If you want to see what one looks like, read mine every Friday at 10:30 Eastern. I really like using newsletters – they’re good for clicks and they’re good for sales.
Newsletters can be kind of a pain in the butt, though. People get a lot of email as it is. That means people won’t give you email addresses without an incentive. For me, offering access to my Discord server with over 1,000 game devs usually does the trick…but even still, I meet skeptical people sometimes. That said, if you can get email addresses, your newsletter can become one of the most powerful selling tools you have. All you have to do to sell things on an email newsletter is add a pretty picture and ask nicely (and concisely/clearly).
Social Media – Photos
There are a lot of ways to build a social media following, but by far, the easiest way to build up a following fast is just to post pictures of board games on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s so simple, it’s easy to maintain, it gets a lot of likes, and it’s a low effort task.
The trouble with this is that followers and likes don’t convert to clicks and sales without laying the groundwork first. As an example, look at my very untargeted War Co. Instagram account. It’s got around 34,000 followers right now and it’s practically useless as a selling tool.
Social Media – Tips
I’ve seen a lot of game developers and board game personalities use social media to share their knowledge. This is a really good way to do some low-key content marketing, and it’s a big part of my approach with the Brandon the Game Dev Twitter. It makes people’s lives easier, establishes credibility, and can get good exposure if what you say is shareable.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are also doing the same thing. You have to be somehow distinct from them, and that’s really hard to do. That’s something even I’m working on myself. Then there’s also the fact that you have to have knowledge to share it in the first place. Much like sharing photos through social media, it’s also really hard to direct sell using this approach either. Having a big social media presence acts as a force multiplier on other sales initiatives and forms of content you create, though.
Social Media – Groups/Communities
Last but not least, you can use social media to create groups or communities where others share their own content and their own knowledge. Depending on who you ask, this may or may not qualify as content marketing, but hey, bear with me for a second 🙂
You can use Facebook groups or chat rooms like Discord (which is what I do). This can be one of the best forms of marketing because building a community is so useful if you can get right. It puts you in a powerful position, can give you incredible reach and exposure, can build up your credibility, and generally introduce you to a lot of opportunities.
Building a community is also a great way to sell. Once you earn enough respect, you can ask people to buy something you’ve made. Many people will take you up on that.
Unfortunately, community building is extremely time-consuming, even more so than video. You may have to deal with toxic and negative people in a polite, straightforward way that leaves you looking friendly and reputable until the end. Plus it requires a certain mindset that a lot of people don’t have. Building a community takes COMMITMENT that other forms of marketing require less of.
Creativity is one of the noblest impulses. Creating content and sharing it with the world can be an extraordinary form of marketing. I’ve listed out some options to give you ideas with pros, cons, and examples. This is not an exhaustive list, though. Get creative, do something new, and test your own ideas. There are lots of ways to make your voice heard and content marketing is one of them 🙂